Five essential exercises for ski training

It’s not too late to build the strength and stamina needed to hit the slopes

 

Preparation plays an important role in athletics. And now that it’s not long before the mountain opens; it’s not too late to build the strength, endurance and power needed for the demands of skiing, and decrease the risk for injury. Here are five key training tips to start off the ski season prepared, and excited for a new season.

1. Get out the door.

When it comes to having a great day on the hill, a strong cardiovascular base will make your time on the mountain fun, rather than being out of breathe and exhausted. Head out to local trails, for both steep short climbs and longer hikes, or if pressed for time, indoor cardio equipment. Try to do cardio workouts 3-5 each week, for 20-45 minutes.

2. Knee control

Squats and lunges strengthen all the muscles that stabilize and support your knees. But to do them right, you want to train the correct hip and knee angles. If you have knee cave when your bend your knees  (i.e.; your knee falls in) for example, it typically means that the gluteal medius muscles (middle butt) are weak. Single leg squats, using a band above the knee, strengthen the glutes and hips, while stabilizing the knee. This will help you improve your coordination of the whole movement and translates to better skiing. 

3.Tempo for tough legs 

Strengthening the quads and hamstrings is paramountto carving great ski turns. Front squats make your legs stronger, as these train primarily “concentric “ strength-the strength it takes to press out of the bottom of the squat. Keep doing them, as they are great. When it comes to alpine skiing though, gravity helps you down the hill. From a strength perspective, your legs first fight gravity from being forced into the hill, and then pop up, into the next turn. Adding “ eccentric” training, like “squat jumps “and “skater’s hops “ mimic ski turns. 

Eccentric is the action of a muscle lengthening: for example, remember a time hiking down a mountain that made you sore, not the hike up the mountain. In squat jumps, land, and slow down your deceleration, (about 2-3 seconds) to train eccentric leg strength. 

 

4.Dynamic balance 

Skiing is dynamic. You tip a ski (or board) onto its edge, balance your weight over that edge, and then the ski turns. Like magic. When you are skiing well, you look relaxed, fluid, and in balance. Dynamic balance also helps you react to changing snow and light. To train balance, stand on one foot for one minute, writing the alphabet with small movements of the free foot and ankle. Progress the move to standing on a BOSU,  (a half- ball) or a square of foam. 

5.Intra-abdominal pressure; your core 

A strong core makes it easier for your whole body to move together when you are carving a nice round turn. The core muscles splint the entire trunk and torso. In PT speak, the core is known as the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, and is actually 29 pairs of muscles. All of these muscles work together; the abs, hips, and lower back, to transmit and generate force between the lower and upper body.  Practice planks, with your forearms underneath your shoulders. Staying straight from your head to your heels, lift one leg upward, and hold for 2 seconds. Alternate lifting one leg at a time, for 35 seconds.

Click on link to view exercises athttps://vimeo.com/365178195

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_1ef45404-eb7c-11e9-8ecd-2f3e568fe60a.html

Fix your back pain; don’t forget your glutes

Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, you can help low back pain.

Kevin Mullins, a master instructor for Equinox Sports Club in Washington, D.C. understands low-level chronic back pain and found three recurring issues that personal trainers can address with their clients. Excess bodyweight, sedentary lifestyles, and improper exercise selection, are areas a trainer can help a client with, all factors having a correlation to low back pain. It is estimated that over 84 % of the population will experience an episode of LBP, from children to the elderly, at some time during life.

As well, age, stress, occupational factors, lack of flexibility or hyper-mobility, sports, postural habits, and smoking are other contributing factors.

Recovering from low back pain is a long complex road. If you are in pain, but not dealing with any diagnosed or diagnosed medical issue, you fall into the category of mechanical low back pain, or LBP.

Unlike a car, says Dr. McGill, one of the most widely respected spine researchers in the world, where you change one thing and it’s fixed, fixing a back is different. Back pain is more complicated and is much more than just fixing one part. Because, McGill notes, it comes down to cold hard science.

How the  spine functions and it’s relationship the rest of the body is the key to being free of back pain. Through proper exercise, movement, and posture, even disc bulges can be made less painful, and usually pain-free, he notes. 

Of course it’s hard to stick to a program if you are in pain. You lose the very conditioning that could help treat LBP, or even more frustrating, gain unwanted weight.That extra weight is the number one reason clients turn to a trainer, with or without low back pain. Healing starts to occur when you keep the bigger picture in mind; a good diet,adequate sleep, and a matched activity/ training program.

Tip #1 The Big Picture 

A traditional strength training can improve strength and muscle mass. Overall body strength as well as a daily walking regime are important part of a client’s program to become free of back pain.

Tip #2  Bend at the hips, rather than the spine 

There is a direct correlation between posture and pain. You can reduce episodes of back pain by reminding yourself to bend at the hips, which is a ball and socket joint, not the back. The spine does bend, but repeated spine bending, whether it’s picking up a weight in the gym, or swinging a kettlebell, could eventually lead to delaminations in the layers of the discs. Someone swinging a kettlebell, along with their back, instead of stabilizing the spine while doing so, to protect the spine, risks further trauma to an already sensitive back. When you’re performing squats, for example, sink your hips back towards your heels, like sitting onto a low park bench. Keep your eyes forward. Use your hips rather than round your back.

Tip #3  Rethink the core 

To enhance back fitness, you need a strong focus on core strength, as theses muscles play a protective role. The internal and external obliques, transverse and rectus abdominals, and the erector spinae are arranged around the spine and act as guy wires to allow the spine to control movement, bear loads  and facilitate breathing. But all too often you see good athletes and gym members entirely focused on just the rectus abdominis, commonly known as the “6 pack”. If we go back to our car analogy, focusing on only one part won’t solve back pain.

The core musculature extends to the entire body,  from the upper back down to the pelvis, not just the 6 pack.The lats, trapezius, the gluteals, hamstrings, hip flexors and inner and outer thighs all have an impact on the spine. 

Typically what happens with someone experiencing low back pain, is that that pain hasn’t allowed them to adequately train. The outcome is weaker core and gluteal muscles. This is where science comes in.

To see how important the glutes are for strength, try this exercise; Stand on one leg and balance. Then sink your hips back slightly, behind your heel, and see how much more stable standing on one leg feels. This is a great demonstration of the role the gluteals play regarding core strength.

Your progression, with an awareness on good movement patterns, including planks, back rows, squats and bridges, for example, should be aimed at strengthening more and more of your whole body, back to health.

( edited )https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_d44c4e26-d581-11e9-bddf-b7175436d170.html
F

Are you doing it right? How to do standing bicep curls

If you needed to work on your balance, standing on one leg, say for 30 seconds, is a good exercise. A good cue would be to imagine your stance leg as a wood post, or that you cement your foot into the ground. Besides helping improve your balance, the muscles of the lower leg play a role in helping you stand on your leg. An exercise like this, standing on one leg, offers a practical carryover to a real-life situation where you just might need to be strong on one leg. A goal of strength training is not only to improve strength, but also to improve function and prevent injury.

The barbell or dumbbell bicep curl is an arm strengthener, common in resistance training. The action involves elbow flexion, or bringing the hands toward the face. Most people stand with their feet side-by-side, or parallel, to perform them. Front-loaded exercises, like the barbell biceps curls, shift the body’s center of gravity forward, outside of your base of support. What typically ends up happening is that most people sway their trunk backward to counter the added weight in front of them, lose their postural control and end up stressing the lumbar spine.

It’s always a good idea to limit compressive forces on the back. Research shows that having weights alongside the body, rather than held out front of the body at shoulder height, is much more spine-friendly.

If you think about daily activities, such as lifting a big UPS package, or carrying something in front of you, most people would lift or stand in a staggered stance, as it is more stable.  As training is meant to improve function, it makes sense to train in positions that mimic real life, not just a single muscle.

As we age, it becomes even more important to train not just muscle, but movement. Countering muscle disuse through resistance training is a powerful intervention to combat the loss of muscle strength and muscle mass. Independence, mobility, psychological well-being and healthy life expectancy are all benefits.

Lifting groceries or a basket of laundry requires not only strength and mobility, but also good postural control, much like the front-loaded bicep curl. What foot position would give you a larger base of support so you don’t fall? What foot position would give you better stability and balance when doing tasks such as lifting?

Getting back to the bicep curl, the question of which stance was better—parallel or staggered—was recently addressed by two studies at the National Strength and Conditioning Association national conference. The studies showed that the staggered stance provides a bigger base of support anteriorly. Keep in mind that any front-loaded exercise, like the bicep curl, shifts the body’s center of gravity forward. Standing in a staggered stance helps maintain overall stability and balance. It turns out that all muscle activation is the same, no matter your foot position. This includes forward-and-back trunk sway, external obliques, lumbar erector spine, front shin and side shin activity. Whatever stance, staggered or parallel, that you are most comfortable with, without back sway, is good lifting technique. Add an image such as your legs as wood posts, or Krazy glue your feet into the ground, and your bicep curls will look and feel great.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/fitness-guru/article_a6726150-bf8f-11e9-b702-0348f49bc0a0.html

Handle your habits

You just come home from work. You aren’t particularly hungry, but there you are standing in front of the refrigerator.

Handle your habits

You’ve just come home from work. You aren’t particularly hungry, but there you are standing in front of the refrigerator. It’s as if unseen forces have led you there. Are you more likely to have a glass of water or go for the ice cream? What if you could see the ways in which you get caught in habitual responses, and learn to choose a fresh approach? What if that approach taught you how empowering every choice you make helps you grow?

Understanding habits can serve us really well, as they are fundamental to skill development. The good news is that your routines get things done. The brain, cites Frank Forencich in “Beautiful Practice,” is an incredibly powerful habit-forming organ. Every second of every day, he writes, our nervous system builds patterns of sensation and motor activity, always building on what came before, always seeking more efficient ways to process information into adaptive behavior. An easy action, choosing a glass of water over ice cream, creates a new and healthy behavior.

The habit loop

Habits work in a three-part loop of trigger, routine and a reward.

1. The first is the trigger that tells your brain which pattern to use. You are tired and see a pumpkin-spice triple latte advertisement. You are bored, and plop down on the couch with a remote.

2. The routine is the habit itself; you get in line at Starbuck’s. Or you’ve spent the last hour scrolling on Facebook.

3. The reward is what makes the habit persist. That could mean the boost of caffeine or a feeling like you finally get to relax after a busy day (which you deserve). To break the three-part loop means only changing one thing. You get to keep the reward, but you have to change your routine. Keep it very simple—a five-minute walk or a familiar slow stretch.

Scientists tell us that we are not one self, but multiple selves. There is a part of us that wants immediate gratification, and a part that wants to be our best self. Kelly McGonigal, psychology professor at Stanford and author of “The Willpower Instinct,” writes, “If there is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing—the power of paying attention. It’s training the mind to recognize when you’re making a choice, rather than running on autopilot.”

3 Simple Things

Here are three simple steps from James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” that you can do right now:

1. Start with a habit that is so easy you can’t say no. Want to exercise more, but always tell yourself you don’t have time? Your goal is to exercise for one minute today. That could be 10 jumping jacks.

2. Take time to understand exactly what’s holding you back, so you can begin to finds ways to interrupt your knee-jerk responses.

3. Develop a plan for when you slip and get down on yourself. Replace the guilt, stress or shame with a motto. Clear suggests making this your motto: “Never miss (a workout, good night’s sleep) twice.”

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_e70e9be8-d8a4-11e8-a572-03310d489898.html

 

The right way to train

The best exercise programs don’t have to be complicated to be effective, but you need a plan. It’s not uncommon to see someone in a gym pick up a set of dumbbells, half heartily knock out a few biceps curls, and call it a day. When it comes to strength training, you need is a safe, simple and effective resistance-training program that you can perform at least twice a week.

At any age, strength training increases the amount of muscle and bone density. As we age, it helps boost our energy and vitality, and helps to prevent and treat chronic diseases as arthritis and osteoporosis. For men and women, strength training, or resistance training, helps you achieve a more toned appearance, and contributes to maintaining independence in performing activites of daily life. It improves your balance and coordination, and helps reduce your risk of falling. Strength training allows for a sense of pride, capability, and confidence for older adults. However, you want to ensure that your time in the gym is worthwhile and what you do in your time there transfers to your daily living. If there is one aspect of aging that you can control, it is strength training.

 Get with the free weights

If your workout consists of using only machines, you might want to consider adding free weights, or the suspension trainers. Research shows that functional strength increases over 57 percent in machine-trained individuals, compared to 115 percent in free-weight groups.

Functional training is a popular buzzword in fitness programs and is used to help design effective programs. The dictionary defines the word functional as “ of having activity, purpose, or task or, alternately, “ designed to be practical and useful, rather than attractive.” With regard to what you do in your workouts, functional training is all about positive transfer to your goals, which is the purpose of training, says Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University, author and educational provider for fitness professionals worldwide.

Functional training is described as the ability to produce and maintain a balance between mobility and stability along a kinetic chain while carrying out fundamental patterns with accuracy and efficiency. Greater results are seen in movements taking place in three-dimensional spaces, which is where free weights come in. For example, you might step-up onto a step or bench holding weights, rather than simply use a seated leg machine for leg strength. Both exercises are valuable for enhanced performance, and each offer unique training benefits. However, training in a three-dimensional space, as in a box step-up exercise, is important because for one, you are standing up, which is what we do in life, and also involves mobility and stability, which contribute to good movement skills.

You want your workouts to include the basic movements that you do in daily life: squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, and rotating.

Little tweaks and offset positions.

Repeatedly doing the same exercise the exact same way can place repetitive stress on the joints, muscle, and connective tissue.  In a squat, for example, try an offset staggered or a narrow stance in a set. (A set is a group of consecutive repetitions.)  By changing or tweaking the position of major joints like the hips and knees, you help dissipate stresses to the connective tissue. Changing hand positions in upper body exercises also helps reduce overuse injury to the shoulder joint.

Helping Aging Bodies.

If you’re over 50 and have unavoidable age-related changes, or chronic conditions, you can still gain skills so you don’t rely solely on exercise machines. Here are some fixes so you can do some great functional exercises:

Crunches. Put a pillow behind your head if your neck flexors are long and weak.

Push-ups. Instead of regular push-ups where you feel like you hunch your shoulders, or to avoid too much weight-bearing to already sore shoulders, lay flat on your stomach, with palms on the floor and elbows back. Press through your palms. Or do push-ups against a wall.

Plank. Elevate your shoulders higher than your toes by placing your forearms on a bench or chair.

Balance. Stand on one foot. Lift your other knee up towards your chest.  Open the leg using your thigh and knee, back a forth 8 times, like a windshield wiper, to challenge your center of gravity.

Keep your program safe and  simple to stay young and strong, your way.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/valley_people/fitness-guru/article_fd243020-3e79-11e8-8d77-0beb68f12809.html

Modernize your workout. Lose a few old popular exercises

Modernize your workout with safe new moves

You may already lift weights, but is your workout working? What if you modernize a few moves? With the growing prevalence of chronic and overuse injuries, particularly in the middle- age population, you might be ready for safer alternative exercises. In 2013, there were more than 10 million doctor’s office visits for both lower back pain and shoulder symptoms. The shoulder joint and the back are two important areas where the combination of previous injuries and inappropriate exercises can initiate injury, damage soft tissue or exacerbate an existing injury. Behind-the-neck pulldowns and loaded lateral flexion (e.g. dumbbell side bends), once fitness standards, are two examples. Choosing newer, evidence-based alternative exercises can save you time visiting doctors and physical therapists and help you reap better training results.

Be kind to your shoulders

    A traditional exercise is behind-the-neck pulldowns. Forget your old high school training and don’t put the shoulder and cervical spine at risk of injury. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of people have a shoulder injury in their lifetime. Shoulders need the strength and flexibility that allow you to reach, hold, lift, carry, press and pull, pretty much what you do daily. It’s the most movable joint, and very shallow at that. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball—the head of the upper arm—attaching into a small shallow socket (glenoid fossa), giving the joint inherent instability, often described as a golf ball sitting on a tee. The shoulder is also held together with an elaborate system of muscles, tendons and ligaments, including the rotator cuff muscles, which stabilize the joint during all the pushing and pulling activities that you do. Pulling a bar down behind your neck can lead to rotator cuff instability, suprascapular neuropathy and an increased risk of anterior capsule instability.

The same is true of behind-the-neck shoulder presses, with their risk of repetitive stresses on the joint because of the extreme range of motion. Bringing weights down behind the cervical spine causes excessive forward head tilt, or flexion, and has risk, as it could lead to transient upper-extremity paralysis or transient nerve injury. Aim for having your arms 30 degrees in front of you to allow your weights to be positioned in your body’s center of gravity throughout the lifts instead. You’ll have a better mechanical advantage, and better sports specificity.

Best abs ever

    What is the right workout that will preserve your back instead of destroying it? Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, thinks that often the causes of back troubles are replicated in the exercises. When it comes to core work, often the public and even personal trainers focus on moves like sit-ups, often loaded with weight, or back hyperextension called ” Superman,” an extended posture that results in intervertebral disk loading. Similar exercises such as Pilates roll-ups or Russian twists, for strong abs, says McGill in his book “Back Mechanic,” put unnecessary loads, compression and strain on the discs. The loaded dumbbell side bend, for example, increases the likelihood of disc herniation.

  Planks and exercises like the framer’s carry improve core stiffness and trunk endurance—much better predictors of low back health. Super stiffness builds whole body stability, while sparing the joints. Splitting wood with an axe is an example that McGill uses as an analogy:  At the instant of impact, a total body “stiffness” is generated by a rapid contraction of all your core muscles, and spares your back. Check out link for safe alternative exercises~ /vimeo.com/251402324
Published in the Idaho Mt. Express January 19, 2018.

Is the 7-Minute Workout as good as it sounds?

When it comes to regular exercise, is 7 minutes all you need?  The Scientifically Proven 7- Minute Workout is a widely popular smartphone app, claims that you will lose weight, improves cardiovascular function, and has over 10 million downloads. The combination of only seven minutes and scientifically proven sounds pretty great when the number one reason people don’t exercise is lack of time.  To be healthy, you have to get your heart pumping through daily exercise, eating well, and doing things that promote your well being. By doing so, aside from genetics and age, you can save or extend your life. Yet the growing prevalence of preventable chronic disease in the United States and worldwide is alarming.  In the United States, 50 % of adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, and 48 percent of deaths can be attributed to heart disease and cancer. What we all have as a tool to promote wellness is cardiovascular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, strength training exercises two to three days a week, and a flexibility regime at least two times a week. But can 7 minutes work?

The 7 minute program is a combination of twelve 30-second bouts consisting of these exercises in the following order: jumping jacks, wall sit, push-ups, abdominal crunches, step-ups onto chair, squats, triceps dips on chair, planks, high knees, lunges, push-up with rotation, and side planks. A 10-second rest follows each exercise bout.  Tough, yes, but you can obtain substantial changes in heart rate, oxygen uptake, and blood lipid levels.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Sports and Conditioning, researchers found that big bursts of activity, like jumping jacks and wall sits, both part of the 7 minute workout, require near-maximal effort, and pass the guideline recommendations as important moderate-exercise.

Because lack of time is one of the most common barriers to exercise, it isn’t surprising that time-efficient and simple programs are popular. Bodyweight training and high-intensity interval training is the second and third top fitness trends in 2016, respectively, behind wearable technology.  High- intensity interval training, or HIIT, consists of short bursts of all-out exercise interspersed with brief recovery periods. A review of 28 studies on healthy adults show that this type of training results in superior increases in maximal oxygen uptake than moderate-intensity exercise.  Typically, HIIT is used in cycling, running or treadmill workouts, and supervised by a trained instructor. In a 10 -week program of group-based, instructor-led HIIT cycling, VO2 max improved, as well as insulin sensitivity and improved blood lipid profiles.

The question researchers are asking is that is it really “scientifically proven”? Could you reproduce that intensity, by yourself, doing jumping jacks and triceps dips for example, at home, and get the same results as from HIIT training?  It’s not, as the gains aren’t as great as true HIIT, but results are encouraging.  One study of healthy individuals doing 6 weeks of the 7-minute workout, daily, helped lower body fat and waist circumference.  Another study of active men and women showed that 24 sessions of 7 minutes led to significant increases in muscle endurance, yet no change in body fat or VO2 max.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning study concludes that this is a great workout to do at home, without special equipment and obtain substantial changes in heart rate, oxygen uptake, and blood lipid levels. If you’re timed pressed, certainly 7 intense minutes is better than nothing at all. Seven can be your lucky number.

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/is-the–minute-workout-as-good-as-it-sounds/article_67280aba-b4ea-11e7-afbf-3b5a5e42d7ee.html

Are fitness trackers motivating ?

Fitness trackers can be a good tool for helping you move more.

The Fitbit is sleek and novel, as are many of the new fitness trackers and apps, such as the Adidas or Human App, with gorgeous images, charts, and graphics. What’s not to like being called a hero for walking 30 minutes? Graphs and feedback in fitness trackers are fun and motivational. This year, activity trackers and wearable’s retained their number one ranking by the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, and an estimated 485 million wearable devices will be in the market by 2018. But do they really make a difference in terms of long-term lifestyle change?

As with any new trend, going way back to Jane Fonda workout videos, Cooper Aerobics, Jim Fixx and running, or today’s P90X, the initial novelty wears off. Dr. Michelle Segar, Ph.D., a motivational scientist at the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research Center says that they are still just tools, not the holy grail of motivation. Yes, some people love graphs and charts, but it is your relationship with physical activity that counts in the long run. Is exercise a chore, or a gift?

Studies are mixed and ongoing in showing how effective tracking apps are to help people lose weight. Research shows that only some types of trackers can help. For instance, a study of inactive postmenopausal women found that a standard pedometer didn’t help increase their activity, while the Fitbit did. Another study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed participants increased their physical activity by 16 minutes per week. However, by 6 months, 40% of the participants stopped wearing their devices, and at the year’s end, only 10 % of them were still wearing them.

The Right Why

If only a small percentage of people wear trackers after a year, where is the missing motivational link? Human nature dictates that we all want to have positive experiences and ownership of our behavior. Is your underlying reason why you would want to include more exercise is because your doctor said so, or societal pressures to be thin? When I set up exercise programs for new clients, I always ask what is the specific number one goal that they want to achieve. Your reason for initiating a behavior change has to be compelling enough that you would want it in your life. Feel better. Have more energy. Be in a better mood. All these reasons have a domino effect and can positively influence your motivation, says Dr. Segar. In her book No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Dr. Segar points out that physical activity that is enjoyable and makes people feel good right now is more motivating than a noble far-off goal such as “ better health “. When you focus on an immediate pleasure, like an evening walk around your neighborhood, moving more then becomes a gift. This is what Dr. Segar calls the right why.

When you enjoy something and do it willingly, you are highly motivated, autonomous. Within this theory, you’ve created a sense of ownership. Regarding exercising, you also develop a sense of self-care. The rewards are instant- perhaps your headache is gone, or feel better for doing some stretching. By taking these little steps, you reinforce the rewards of being more active. The brain begins to associate sweat with a surge of endorphins- those feel-good chemicals. Keep using your tracker. It’s a good partnership for staying motivated.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express July 25, 2017

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_5421f864-7312-11e7-afcb-dff831782410.html

 

 

How weight-lifting can keep you young

 

One of the secrets to a longer life involves steel, rubber or your bodyweight.

One of the secrets to a longer life involves steel, rubber or your bodyweight. The steel is in the form of dumbbells or barbells, and rubber is what resistance bands or stability balls are made of. No equipment handy? No worries, because exercises such as pushups, squats, planks and lunges, exercises that you can do anywhere, all build muscle.

    New research all points toward strength training as a key factor in longevity and an extended life, and you need to lift or push weight to build muscle. Biking, running, walking and moving more are all important for cardiovascular health, but if you’re not hitting the weights, now is a good time to start a program. Strength training, or resistance training, is the use of progressive resistance exercises to increase your ability to exert or resist force.

    Starting as young as 7, when the nervous system is almost completely mature, strength training can lay down a lifelong regime that promotes increased bone density and muscle mass and decreased age-related body fat. By our early 40s, most adults achieve peak muscle mass, but after that point, a gradual decline begins. People typically lose 8 percent or more of lean muscle each decade, a process that accelerates significantly after age 70. However, the good news is that you can become stronger at any age. But can lifting weights keep you young?

There is a clear connection between strength training and a longer life, says Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, an assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. A recent study she led found that seniors who did strength training two times a week were 46 percent less likely to die from any cause. They were 41 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 19 percent less likely to die from cancer. The research was published in the journal Preventive Medicine. No one is immune from any unwanted condition, but consider this: If you suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, the decrease in strength is significant. What this means is that even if you think your muscle mass is adequate, if you have any of these underlying medical conditions, your strength is much less than someone without them, says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., founder of a Harvard University hospital weight-loss facility. Adding resistance training also improves insulin sensitivity, improves cholesterol numbers and revs up your metabolic rate—more reasons to take action.

    I’ve worked with many older clients who say their balance is terrible, but it’s more that their legs are weak. On average, we have a genetically determined amount of both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers in muscle. As we age, our fast-twitch muscles shrink in size and number, as does the speed of transmission of impulses from the brain to the working muscles. Are your legs really as strong as you think? Consider this: Decreased leg strength, not dementia, is the biggest predictor of loss of independence in older adults.

    For beginners, the most important aspect of strength training is to find a program you can do consistently. Essentially, aim to use eight to 10 large muscle group exercises, perhaps starting with the legs. Go slow and perform the exercises with good form. For trained individuals, new studies suggest that for both men and women, if you want to get stronger, exercise with heavier loads. Keep your program progressive and varied, and don’t keep it a secret that you’re getting younger every day.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express 2/10/2017

Trade sit-ups for partial curl-ups & planks

Share

Partial curl-up are a better way to get strong abs than sit-ups. Courtesy photo by Connie Aronson

Partial curl-up are a better way to get strong abs than sit-ups. Courtesy photo by Connie Aronson

My friend Claire is helping whip her new beau into shape, hitting the gym five days a week. Claire also has him doing dozens of sit-ups so he’ll get a movie-star six-pack.  For most people the first thing that comes to mind when you say “abs” is one muscle—the rectus abdominis. She means well, but doing hundreds of sit-ups are hard on your back because of devastating loads to your spine. In 2008, there were 3.4 million emergency room visits—an average of 9,400 per day, for back problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Back problems are the fifth most common reason for all doctor visits in the US.  Trading the sit-up for safer and more effective abdominal work can help spare this outcome.

Dr. Stuart McGilll, a professor of spine mechanics and chair of the Department of Kinesiology at The University of Waterloo, points out that spine disks only have so many bends in them before they become damaged. Keep the bends for essential tasks, such a tying shoes, rather than using them in ab training, he recommends. The Army agrees. In 2011, after 30 years, the Army’s Physical Readiness and Combat Tests deemed the sit-up test as an ineffective assessment of a person’s core in relation to their battle strength.In sports that require repeated hyperextension—like gymnastics, diving, volleyball, weight lifting, golf, football, tennis and rowing—the incident of back injury is 11 percent, according to the International Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences. In football lineman, it may be as high as 50 percent. The types of injuries vary with age. In adolescent athletes, nearly 70 percent of lumbar spine injuries occur when forces are exerted on skeletally immature spines, whereas the majority of adult back injuries are related to muscle strain and disc disease.

If you want a stronger, tighter core, instead of full sit-ups, try the traditional crunch or many variations of a curl-up. Lifting your head and shoulders a few inches (around 30 degrees) off the floor and holding briefly is a good exercise to challenge the abdominal muscles while imposing a minimal load to the lumbar spine

Muscle  function
The four layers of abdominal muscles are like a woven basket encompassing the belly. The long vertical rectus abdominis runs vertically from the sternum to the pubis crest and is trained when you do an exercise such as the crunch. The external and internal oblique muscles rotate and side-bend the trunk. The deepest layer, right below your belly-button, named the transversus abdominis, plays a significant role in stabilizing the trunk, specifically the spine, during all movement. All the abdominal muscles hold in our organs and help us in forced exhalation, as in coughing, urinating or giving birth. But the most critically important function throughout the day—writes Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T., author of Yoga Abs Moving From Your Core—is stabilization, to keep the back free of pain and the abdomen strong.

Very few sports require fully flexing the spine, as in a full sit-up. Rather, the core transmits power from the hips through the torso as in pitching a ball or running. Here, the abdominals work together with muscles in the lower back, hips and pelvis, known as the core, stabilizing the spine. The core and spine can handle large forces vertically, but not in extreme flexion, as in sit-ups, twisting or bending.

For example, a 154-pound man standing upright has 154 lbs. of pressure on the L3-L4 disc, which the spine can easily handle. Sitting and bending forward 20 degrees, the pressure on L3-L4 bumps up to 264 lbs. In the bent-knee sit-up the pressure almost triples, up to 396 lbs. Simply modifying the sit-up to a partial curl-up, with the head and shoulders lifting a few inches off the floor, eliminates these huge compression forces on the discs.

In a June 2009 New York Times article titled “Core Myths”, the marginalized view of the core being “abs “was challenged by McGill. He compares the spine to a fishing rod supported by muscular guy wires. If all the wires are tensed equally, as in the whole lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, the rod stays straight. A core exercise program should emphasize all the muscles that girdle the spine, not just the abs, to ensure balanced strength. In his lab, he’s demonstrated how an average sit-up can exceed the limit known to increase the risk of back injury in normal American workers.

The full sit-up is three muscle actions: neck flexion, spine flexion and hip flexion. It’s important to be able to sit up, no doubt, but repeated sit-ups do place hundreds of pounds of compression on the lumbar disks. Hooking or holding the feet down stresses the low back even more. Ironically, the bent-knee sit-up has been taught to minimize the action of the hip flexor in the sit-up, though it is not correct. The abs can only curl the trunk. The sit-up is a strong hip flexor exercise (used in climbing stairs or skipping), whether the knees are bent or straight.

McGill says that the following three exercises, done regularly, can provide a well-rounded, core-stability program: practice the curl-ups, learn how to do a side-plank (lie on your side and raise yourself in a straight line) and try the bird-dog (kneel on your hands and knees, legs hip-width apart, raise an alternate arm and leg to hip height and hold for four or six seconds).

Claire tried all three, smitten over both the planks and her slim new guy.

http://theketchumkeystone.org/2014/05/29/health-happiness-trade-sit-ups-for-partial-curl-ups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=